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Seasonal Acne: Is this really a thing?!

During the cooler months of fall and winter, experiencing acne flares is a common concern for many of my patients. So why does this occur? There are a few reasons why this may happen:

  1. Dry skin & hot showers: Central heating, dry, cold air and hot showers may be the perfect trifecta for an acne breakout. When our skin becomes too dry and lacks moisture, the oil glands try to overcompensate for the dryness and work ‘overtime’ triggering more cystic acne breakouts.

  2. Over moisturizing with a thick heavy moisturizer: Those with dry, sensitive skin during the cooler months may find themselves frequently reaching for a moisturizer and sometimes even using a thick body moisturizer on their face. Heavy moisturizers, especially moisturizers meant for the body only, may clog skin pores and trigger acne breakouts.

For those suffering from acne during cooler months, here are some tips that I frequently recommend to my patients: (and words of caution of practices to avoid)

  1. Hydrate your skin with the RIGHT moisturizer. When moisturizing your body, avoid using the same moisturizer for your face. Body lotions are often comedogenic, plugging up pores and leaving a greasy, residue on the face. When shopping for moisturizers for the face it is important to look for products that are “noncomedogenic” or safe for “acne-prone” skin. Look for hydrating ingredients including hyaluronic acid, ceramide, and glycerin —such ingredients boost skin hydration, improving the elasticity and cohesion of the skin barrier while not leaving behind unwanted greasy, oily residue.

  2. Avoid over-exfoliating: During the cooler months, our skin may not only feel dry, but look dry with a flaky appearance. Exfoliating your skin can be tricky and controversial —over exfoliating may be drying and irritating to the face. There is a frictional component of acne and over exfoliating may trigger acne breakouts. At-home exfoliant masks include physical masks (clay) and chemical ingredients (peels) that gently remove dead skin off the top layer of the epidermis and promote cell turnover. A helpful tip I provide all my acne patients: Limited contact with exfoliating masks is key as they may be dry and irritating. Following an exfoliating mask, apply a thin layer of either a daytime or nighttime noncomedogenic facial moisturizer to maintain skin hydration.

  3. Opt for a salicylic acid-based cleanser to help both treat acne and remove dry, flaking skin: Salicylic acid is a type of beta-hydroxyacid and is used for the treatment of acne. This ingredient is a class of “keratolytics” meaning it opens up the pores and removes excess scale. Saliylic acid cleansers are typically less irritating, drying for those with acne-prone sensitive skin and are helpful in the treatment of hyperpigmentation in those with pigmented skin.

  4. Avoid harsh, irritating ingredients: Avoid serums, cleansers, and moisturizers containing numerous botanical ingredients and fragrance as this may be irritating and trigger a skin rash, itching and peeling.

  5. Keep it simple: While there are so many skincare products our there to choose from, maintaining a simple skincare routine is recommended. Using multiple skincare products (toners, moisturizers, cleansers) throughout the day may increase your risk of skin irritation and may even cause inactivation of certain active ingredients when used in combination.

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